Wednesday, April 27, 2005

By request

The original version of this recipe came from A Midwest Gardener’s Cookbook by Marian K. Towne. I have changed the cooking method, preferring not to use the microwave. Here’s my version. The recipe can be cut in half and will then make 2 jelly jars plus a half-jar for your fridge. You don’t have to can it, but it’s easy to do and keeps the relish around for another time.

Makes about 5 half-pint jelly jars

1 lb. red radishes, cut in half
1 medium onion, quartered
1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 Tbs. whole allspice
1/4 tsp. whole cloves
1 c. white vinegar
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. water
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. salt

In a food processor, combine half the radishes, half the onion, and half the carrot. Process until finely chopped. Remove to a bowl and repeat with the other half of the vegetables.

Tie the allspice and cloves in a little cheesecloth bag, or clamp them inside a tea ball. In a saucepan, combine the chopped vegetables, vinegar, sugar, water, mustard seed, and salt. Toss in the cheesecloth bag or stick in the teaball.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Remove the bag or ball of spices. Now you have a choice: You can cool it and keep it in a jar in the fridge (it will last several weeks), or you can can it.

If you choose to can it, here’s how:

Have ready a box of jelly jars with lids and rings. You’ll also need a very large pot with a lid and, preferably, a metal jar rack inside (a cheap enameled pot with the rack is sold for about $15-20 at hardware stores and is called a boiling-water canner). It also helps to have something to grab hot jars with--either a jar lifter or a silicone Orka mitt.

Fill the large pot most of the way with water and set it on high heat to come to a boil. Meanwhile, sterilize your jars. You can do this either by running them through your dishwasher or by boiling them. What makes the most sense to me is to put the empty jars into the canner while it’s coming to a boil and leave them there to boil the whole time I’m cooking the relish.

Put the lids in scalding-hot water (don’t boil them, though) and keep them submerged while you’re working. Have ready a clean kitchen towel, laid out on your counter or table.

When the jars are sterilized, lift them out of the boiling water or the steaming dishwasher and place them, top down, on the clean towel. One by one, pick up a jar with a mitt or potholder and ladle hot relish into it, leaving a quarter-inch empty at the top. Take a plastic knife or similar implement and poke through the relish, freeing any air bubbles. Use a clean paper towel or clean rag to wipe the rim, then put a lid on top and screw it down firmly with a ring. As long as it’s on straight, don’t get overly worked up about the tightness of the ring; it’s suction, not the ring, that will seal the jar. Repeat for the remaining jars. If you end up with an uneven amount, don’t can it, just put it in the fridge for immediate use. The jars need to be full except for the quarter-inch at the top.

Take the filled, closed jars and carefully place them in the boiling-water canner with your jar lifter or Orka mitt. There should be an inch of water, minimum, above the lids. When the water returns to a rolling boil, set a timer for 15 minutes and slap the lid on. Lift the jars out after the time is up.

Here’s the fun part: Now you listen for the “poinks.” As it begins to cool, the air in each jar will contract and suck the lid down tight. You’ll hear a series of little poink-like noises as the jars seal themselves. After an hour, test each jar by pushing down lightly in the center of the lid. If there’s any flex to it, it hasn’t sealed. Either process it again or use it immediately. Having said that, though, I have never had a jar fail except for the time one broke while it was in the canner.